CHECKLISTS

Timothy and Titus – Inconspicuous Leadership

1 Timothy 5 checklistI am a list maker…even in retirement from my secular work. For me, what doesn’t get listed, doesn’t get done. It is also very rewarding for me to check that item off the list when it is accomplished. The list has a progression of priorities. One task cannot happen until another task is completed. And so life goes with my lists guiding my behavior and productivity.

As I journal each morning in my conversational prayer with God, the Father, His Spirit guides me to make another list that helps me to mature and grow in Him. I am convicted of some of those “fruits of the Spirit” that I have not tended to or cultivated, have ignored or left undone. His Holy Spirit redirects my thoughts and helps me form a list of tasks that will help me improve my behavior. “Keep a close check on yourself”, writes Paul to Timothy. For me, that means to make a spiritual checklist that keeps me in close contact with the will and purpose of our Father, God and helps me to grow closer to Him.

We can do nothing of significance without God. I am convinced that He guides us to all things that are good for our growth and aid our learning about Him and how He works. Paul also gives Timothy sound advice about how to treat those whom God has called to lead with character traits with another list of how to lead. This list still applies to us today. The theme of this episode seems to be; Know God, Know Yourself, Know The Message, Know Your Audience. Our deeds, good and bad, will be evident. Be driven by God’s love in us.

1 Timothy 5, The Message

17-18 Give a bonus to leaders who do a good job, especially the ones who work hard at preaching and teaching. Scripture tells us, “Don’t muzzle a working ox” and “A worker deserves his pay.”

19 Don’t listen to a complaint against a leader that isn’t backed up by two or three responsible witnesses.

20 If anyone falls into sin, call that person on the carpet. Those who are inclined that way will know right off they can’t get by with it.

21-23 God and Jesus and angels all back me up in these instructions. Carry them out without favoritism, without taking sides. Don’t appoint people to church leadership positions too hastily. If a person is involved in some serious sins, you don’t want to become an unwitting accomplice. In any event, keep a close check on yourself. And don’t worry too much about what the critics will say. Go ahead and drink a little wine, for instance; it’s good for your digestion, good medicine for what ails you.

24-25 The sins of some people are blatant and march them right into court. The sins of others don’t show up until much later. The same with good deeds. Some you see right off, but none are hidden forever.

1 Timothy 5 check yourselfLEADERSHIP PRINCIPLE #6: Keep a Close Check on Yourself

Leadership Characteristics –

–Fully rely on God. Trust Him with all you are and all you have. We are His. All we have is His.
–Ask God “if there is anything offensive to you, cleanse me.” as the Psalmist prayed.
–Repent with a heart and mind not wanting to return to the old life.
–Look full into the face of Jesus, our Master, Lord and Savior with laser focus so we know what direction to take next.
–“Keep a close check on yourself.” Avoid, “he did it, I can, too” or “my sin is not as bad as his sin” or “everybody’s doing it” mentality.
–Ask God for wisdom, insight and understanding.
–Allow God’s transformation to continue in our lives.
–Ask God to make your lists of to BE and to DO. HE will prioritize your lists in ways you cannot imagine! Where He guides, He provides help all along the journey.
–Do all in a Spirit of love for God and others.
–Care enough to confront others with God’s love and concern for their spiritual well-being and growth.

Warning   The things on our spiritual check list can never be crossed off because we’ll be working on them our whole lives. By listing we are reminding ourselves of what we need to work on to “keep a close check” on our lives. It is only by The Atonement of Jesus Christ can we accomplish anything of eternal significance.

Dear Heavenly Father,
You have convinced me that we must do spiritual “business” with You each day to improve our being in You. Thank you for helping us on this journey. Thank you for Your Holy Spirit that points out things in our behavior that could cause us to crash…before crashing. Thank you for always being with us, guiding and directing, loving and protecting and challenging us to grow and bear Fruit. Continue to transform me. Transform your church. Transform the world through your church.
In Jesus Name, Amen

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TRUST BECOMES US!

Psalms – Prayers of Honesty and Praise
 
Psalm 135 phonesWho do you trust? This was a game show about a million years ago from my childhood. I wasn’t a big fan but it came on before a show I really wanted to watch so I sat through it with my parents. Three couples competed on each show. Contestants were always a man and a woman chosen for their unique backgrounds; the announcer would introduce couples one at a time. In the quiz portion, the comedic emcee would tell the male contestant the category of the upcoming question; the man would then have to decide whether to answer the question himself or “trust” the woman to do so. It was all in fun and the real “entertainment” was in interviewing the man and wife, trying to trip them up.
 
Do we treat life as a game when it comes to who or what we trust. We tend to put a lot of trust in inanimate objects even more than people. We trust other humans to know us well enough to speak for us. That’s scary! We trust and rely on our vehicles to work as soon as we put the key in the ignition. We turn on our phones and expect this computer in our hands to run our lives all day long. And it does, if we let it! But that’s just it. Our phone is an IT!
 
Psalm 135 like themOur writer of Psalms 135 is praising God for all He has done and is doing and will do in the lives of His people. He also writes a phrase that pops out to me this morning.
 
“The gods of the godless nations are mere trinkets, made for quick sale in the markets;
Chiseled mouths that can’t talk,
painted eyes that can’t see,
Carve ears that cant’ hear–dead wood! Cold metal!”
 
“Those who make and trust them become like them.”
 
Who and what do you trust? Are you becoming like them or it?
 
Psalm 135, The Message
 
Psalm 135 51-4 Hallelujah!
Praise the name of God,
praise the works of God.
All you priests on duty in God’s temple,
serving in the sacred halls of our God,
Shout “Hallelujah!” because God’s so good,
sing anthems to his beautiful name.
And why? Because God chose Jacob,
embraced Israel as a prize possession.
 
5-12 I, too, give witness to the greatness of God,
our Lord, high above all other gods.
He does just as he pleases—
however, wherever, whenever.
He makes the weather—clouds and thunder,
lightning and rain, wind pouring out of the north.
Psalm 135 idolsHe struck down the Egyptian firstborn,
both human and animal firstborn.
He made Egypt sit up and take notice,
confronted Pharaoh and his servants with miracles.
Yes, he struck down great nations,
he slew mighty kings—
Sihon king of the Amorites, also Og of Bashan—
every last one of the Canaanite kings!
Then he turned their land over to Israel,
a gift of good land to his people.
 
13-18 God, your name is eternal,
God, you’ll never be out-of-date.
God stands up for his people,
God holds the hands of his people.
The gods of the godless nations are mere trinkets,
made for quick sale in the markets:
Chiseled mouths that can’t talk,
painted eyes that can’t see,
Carved ears that can’t hear—
dead wood! cold metal!
Those who make and trust them
become like them.
 
19-21 Family of Israel, bless God!
Family of Aaron, bless God!
Family of Levi, bless God!
You who fear God, bless God!
Oh, blessed be God of Zion,
First Citizen of Jerusalem!
Hallelujah!
 
FROM THE HEART…
 
Psalm 135 6God’s people have always gotten into deep trouble when they put their trust in anyone or anything else other than God. It angers God when His people bow to anyone but Him. Hence the first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before Me”. (This commandment is a hard and fast RULE, not a mere suggestion!)
 
As I pause to reflect on this, I know my phone has become an extension of myself. I’m not alone as I watch rich and poor and everyone in between with heads bowed on the streets and in the marketplaces, in our schools and churches to this thing in our hands that we trust relentlessly and exclusively. We even politely bump into each other, with heads still bowed to our phones, say we’re sorry without looking up at their faces! Crazy, right?
 
My phone doesn’t work here in Santa Cruz unless I am at home in our cottage, under internet that comes and goes. It takes this to realize how much I was missing by looking into the faces of all the humans I am encountering on this journey. It is reminding me that my total trust is and should always be in God alone. He brought us here, not my phone. He had his people support us financially and uphold us in prayer for His wisdom and strength, not my phone.
 
I don’t want to become my phone that is hard, cold metal. I want to look up, focus and acknowledge God! I want to be more and more like Jesus! I want to know and love His people greatly by looking into their eyes and seeing their souls. Yes, I will USE the phone to communicate to God’s people who are praying for us, what God is doing but it is God who has all my love, trust, faith, and hope! We USE things, but LOVE people!
 
Psalm 135 trustTrust begins by loving God. We trust in God who led us here. It is God who provides the means to live here for awhile. It is God who saves us. It is God who brought this far and will not leave us. It is God, and always will be God, who gives us all we need at the right time to do his work when invited to do it.
 
Who do I trust exclusively? I trust in God alone! Why? Because of His reckless, unchanging love for me. I pray I become more and more like the One who made me and to Whom all my trust is given!
 
Our Father in Heaven,
THY will be done.
In Jesus Name, Amen
 
And I’m singing…(Overwhelmed, Big Daddy Weave)
 
I see the work of Your Hands
Galaxies spin in a Heavenly dance oh God
All that You are is so overwhelming
 
I hear the sound of Your Voice
All at once it’s a gentle and thundering noise oh God
All that You are is so overwhelming
 
I delight myself in You
Captivated by Your beauty
I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You
 
God, I run into Your arms
Unashamed because of mercy
I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You
 
I know the power of Your Cross
Forgiven and free forever You’ll be my God
And all that You’ve done is so overwhelming
 
I delight myself in You
In the Glory of Your Presence
I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You
 
And God I run into Your arms
Unashamed because of mercy
I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You
 
You are Beautiful, You are Beautiful
Oh God,…
 
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TO GOD BE THE GLORY!

Psalms – Prayers of Honesty and Praise
 
Psalm 134 handsDon’t be jealous, but this day is beautiful here in South America for we are below the equator from where our northern friends and family reside. This day, in Santa Cruz, Bolivia is beautiful because, no matter the weather where we are, you and I, God made it, provided for it, is in it and and in control of it. Let us rejoice and be glad!
 
It is especially beautiful because today, after school, a young man will publicly show the world Who he believes and will follow, not wavering from that belief. One of the family will be baptized and we will celebrate this day with a carry in meal. Yes, let us rejoice and be glad, indeed!
 
What a perfect Psalm for today!
 
Psalm 134, The Message
A Pilgrim Song
 
Psalm 134 bless1-3 Come, bless God,
all you servants of God!
You priests of God, posted to the nightwatch
in God’s shrine,
Lift your praising hands to the Holy Place,
and bless God.
In turn, may God of Zion bless you—
God who made heaven and earth!
 
Psalm 134 3
Dear Heavenly Father, God of the All,
We love you with all that is in us. Nothing is too hard for you! To You be all glory for all You have done, are doing and will do!
In Jesus Name, Amen
 
God’s doing it again! And again! And again!
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ALL OF US

Psalms – Prayers of Honesty and Praise
 
Psalm 133 birds
You know that person at work that irritates you just with the sound of their voice because of the negativity that flows from their lips? Or that person who is a “yeah, but…” to every idea you have for solutions to problems? Or the one who smacks his lips at lunch? Are you getting that feeling in the pit of your stomach even now as you think of those who irritate you? Did you know that you probably irritate someone just as bad? Uh, oh.
 
ALL of us have something that we do that irritates someone else but do we stop loving them? I have a feeling, since none of us are perfectly perfect in every way (Mary Poppins, we are not) that sometimes we do stop relating to them in loving ways. We might even talk about their habits behind their back. That’s called gossip and it is a sin. We might think less of them and don’t invite them to the work we are doing or to our homes. In that way we devalue them as humans. This breaks God’s heart when we do this to each other.
 
Psalm 133 JesusJesus really nails us when he says when you do these things to the least of these, you are doing it to me. Wait, what?! YES, every time we gossip or put down another human God has created we are doing it to Jesus. How we treat others is a direct correlation to how we treat God. Stop and think about that for awhile. Take all the time you need. I am.
 
What to know how to turn this irritation to God around? Love God. Love others they way HE love us. Unconditionally, warts, irritating habits and all. Just love. And thats, not all…live your love for others out loud by living in unity. God blesses when we live in love and unity with each other for we are all his kids.
 
Psalm 133 help
As parents, it grieves us when our children don’t get along, right? It’s even more so with God. Quarreling among his kids breaks His heart. Jesus, our advocate, feels the blows of hate, discord, gossip and put downs just as much as the person you are dishing it out to in your world. Yikes.
 
Proof is in our next psalm…(as well as many other places in God’s Word.)
 
Psalm 133 labPsalm 133, The Message
A Pilgrim Song of David
 
1-3 How wonderful, how beautiful,
when brothers and sisters get along!
It’s like costly anointing oil
flowing down head and beard,
Flowing down Aaron’s beard,
flowing down the collar of his priestly robes.
It’s like the dew on Mount Hermon
flowing down the slopes of Zion.
Yes, that’s where God commands the blessing,
ordains eternal life.
 
Psalm 133 together
Dear Lord,
We repent of thinking less than about our fellow brothers and sisters, wives and husbands, kids, coworkers, co-volunteers in your church body, leaders, associates, store workers, those who disagree with us, anyone who we think is unworthy of our love. Help us to love each other on this earth like you love us…without any conditions. I love you, Lord with all that is in me. Help me to love others they way I love you and especially that way you love me.
In Jesus Name, Amen
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CAN WE “HOUSE” GOD?

Psalms – Prayers of Honesty and Praise
 
As I read the pilgrim song of the people who are excited with David to long last build a temple for God, I am also thinking of how, today, (and maybe back then), we try to limit Who God is and Where He should reside in our lives. Do we put try to “house” God in our church buildings, only going to meet Him and do business with Him when the doors open? Do we limit Who He is by only coming to Him when things seem out of our control without considering that all things are not really in our control in the first place? Mm. Who is in first place? Who or what do we think about first each morning? Each afternoon? Each night?
 
Psalm 132, The Message
 
A Pilgrim Song
psalm-132-enter.jpg132 1-5 O God, remember David,
remember all his troubles!
And remember how he promised God,
made a vow to the Strong God of Jacob,
“I’m not going home,
and I’m not going to bed,
I’m not going to sleep,
not even take time to rest,
Until I find a home for God,
a house for the Strong God of Jacob.”
 
6-7 Remember how we got the news in Ephrathah,
learned all about it at Jaar Meadows?
We shouted, “Let’s go to the shrine dedication!
Psalm 132 davidLet’s worship at God’s own footstool!”
 
8-10 Up, God, enjoy your new place of quiet repose,
you and your mighty covenant ark;
Get your priests all dressed up in justice;
prompt your worshipers to sing this prayer:
“Honor your servant David;
don’t disdain your anointed one.”
 
11-18 God gave David his word,
he won’t back out on this promise:
“One of your sons
I will set on your throne;
If your sons stay true to my Covenant
and learn to live the way I teach them,
Their sons will continue the line—
always a son to sit on your throne.
Yes—I, God, chose Zion,
the place I wanted for my shrine;
This will always be my home;
this is what I want, and I’m here for good.
I’ll shower blessings on the pilgrims who come here,
and give supper to those who arrive hungry;
I’ll dress my priests in salvation clothes;
the holy people will sing their hearts out!
Oh, I’ll make the place radiant for David!
I’ll fill it with light for my anointed!
I’ll dress his enemies in dirty rags,
but I’ll make his crown sparkle with splendor.”
 
FROM THE HEART
 
The completion of the temple was no assurance of God’s blessing on Israel, for the important thing was that the people fulfill their responsibilities toward the Lord. God told David to get the materials ready and Solomon would direct the temple to be completed.
 
Psalm 123 7This work does bring God’s people together for one purpose or goal. God is honored and praised for the completion of the mission to build it. Does this building keep God first in their lives? We find later that it does not. In fact, Jesus, who is God in flesh, comes to visit what should have been a house of prayer to God, to find a “den of thieves”, using the Temple courtyard as a way to make money while cheating people in the process.
 
Be careful, I’m hearing God say today. We must go to God daily, asking for His help, direction and wisdom to live in this corrupted world.. When we abide in Him. He abides in us wherever we are. This is a daily exercise. It is REAL Life by God working in and through us.
 
Dear Heavenly Father,
We thank you for all You are to us. We thank you for all You have done, are doing and will do in our lives! We praise you first and only! Help us to stay focused and alert. Don’t let us resort to thinking of your house as the only place to meet you. May buildings dedicated to You be places of prayer to You, places of Your saving grace, and houses where Your Holy Spirit is evident in the people who lead the people to praise You! Help us, Lord. Thank you for saving us! Right where we are. I love you, Lord with all that is in me.
In Jesus Name, Amen
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CONTENT AND HOPEFUL

Psalms – Prayers of Honesty and Praise
 
Psalm 131 content
Contentment comes when hope is healthy. When our hope is in the Lord, He gives peace and contentment like no other person can. When we are content to wait in our hope of what the Lord will do next and not run ahead of Him with our own plans, we are content.
 
Has contentment and peace escaped from your being? What do you hope for? Who are you waiting for? In whom do you place all your hope? Are you hopeless? These are questions for reflection as we read our next psalm on this journey called life here, in preparation for eternal life with God.
 
Psalm 131, The Message
 
A Pilgrim Song
God, I’m not trying to rule the roost,
I don’t want to be king of the mountain.
I haven’t meddled where I have no business
or fantasized grandiose plans.
 
2 I’ve kept my feet on the ground,
I’ve cultivated a quiet heart.
Like a baby content in its mother’s arms,
my soul is a baby content.
 
3 Wait, Israel, for God. Wait with hope.
Hope now; hope always!
 
FROM THE HEART…
 
Being content leads to restored hope. Over the past few years I’ve come to the conclusion that our society lives in a constant state of discontentment. We’re not happy with our leaders, with our spouse, our children, or the things that we have. Our house is too small, our TV is an older model and our smartphone doesn’t have the latest 4G technology. So what’s a person to do in order to find contentment in such a restless world, and why can’t we seem to find the contentment that we’re looking for?
 
Many of us are trying to fill a void of some kind in our lives, and unfortunately we try to fill that void with things that can’t satisfy. We look to fill the void with possessions or money, but we only end up wanting more. We try to fill it with relationships, but we end up feeling even more empty and depressed than when we started.
 
All of these things we try to fill our lives with aren’t necessarily bad things, but when they become the end goals, and the reason for our being, we end up being discontent because those things were never meant to fulfill us. Then we become hopeless. Discontentment leads to hopelessness.
 
The only place that we can really find true fulfillment and contentment is in Christ. True contentment isn’t something that we find in things, people or circumstances, it can only be discovered in our convictions.
 
The Bible calls us to allow our convictions, not our circumstances, to govern our sense of contentment. True, biblical contentment is a conviction that Christ’s power, purpose and provision is sufficient for every circumstance. We are to learn how to walk through all kinds of adversity believing in and experiencing Christ’s sufficiency. We have to choose to rest on God’s good promises despite what may be going on in our lives.
 
Yes, true contentment comes from accepting Christ, and having faith that in Him you will have everything you need. Christ is sufficient, and his promises are enough. Hope is restored because of the expectation of knowing Christ is enough.
 
Here are some verses that speak to how to find true contentment in Christ.
 
Philippians 4:11-13 Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
 
1 Timothy 6:6-12 But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.
 
2 Cor. 12:9-10 “And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” …Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
 
Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
 
Job 36:11 If they obey and serve him, they will spend the rest of their days in prosperity and their years in contentment.
 
Proverbs 19:23 The fear of the LORD leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble.
 
Psalm 34:10b Those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
 
Romans 12:2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
 
Proverbs 30: 7-9 Two things I ask of you, O Lord; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.
 
Luke 3:14 And some soldiers were questioning him, saying, “And what about us, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages.”
 
Proverbs 14:30 A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.
 
So, we see that our hope is based on Jesus Christ. Nothing more and nothing less.
 
Return to life of contentment and healthy hope in the One who loved you so much He died for you and lives again in You by His Spirit.
 
Dear Heavenly Father,
My hope is You and You alone.. You are my everything and everyone. I am content to watch you work, join you in your work when invited and not run ahead of you. Thank you for all you have done, are doing and will do. I wait expectantly for You. You are King of kings and Lord of lords. I’m Yours. I’m listening.
In Jesus Name, Amen
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FORGIVENESS IS YOUR HABIT

Psalms – Prayers of Honesty and Praise
 
Psalm 130 redeem
We are beginning week two of our mission work here in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. We are still in the “honeymoon period” where all is well. We have nested into our new home. We have renewed relationships with friends we met the first time we came to this place together a year ago. We met and taught art to our elementary students for a full week. We are being trained to take over teaching Bible to 11th graders in the fourth quarter. It has been a good start to accomplishing God’s purposes for bringing us here.
 
We enjoyed planting flowers in pots on our front porch of the mission house yesterday. We purchased everything we needed at the wonderful outdoor/indoor marketplace where throngs of Bolivians gather to buy and sell. Wow, what a great experience! What a time to hear the language we are trying to learn and watch the exchanges between the people in another culture other than our own.
 
Psalm 130 GodThere will be a time, I am sure, when it might feel as if the “bottom is falling out” of this plan. Satan loves to get in the way, throw up roadblocks to our obedience to God. He loves to dig into people’s hearts and cause discord. What will we do? Will we be alert to who the real enemy is when relationships are tested? Will forgiveness, like God to us, be OUR habit?
 
“If you, God kept records on wrongdoings, who would stand a chance? As it turns out, forgiveness is your habit, and that’s why you’re worshiped.”
 
psalm-130-habit.jpgDid you get that? “FORGIVENESS IS YOUR HABIT”. This phrase, these words that describe the Creator who knows our names, our hearts, minds and souls, leaps from the page of this passage this morning and begs reflection…Is forgiveness my habit, my way of life? When others back home or in business offend, cheat, put me down, say what I’m doing is crazy, or who I follow isn’t real…is immediate and complete forgiveness MY habit as God’s is for me?
 
Psalm 130, The Message
A Pilgrim Song
 
1-2 Help, God—the bottom has fallen out of my life!
Master, hear my cry for help!
Listen hard! Open your ears!
Listen to my cries for mercy.
 
Psalm 130 full redemption3-4 If you, God, kept records on wrongdoings,
who would stand a chance?
As it turns out, forgiveness is your habit,
and that’s why you’re worshiped.
 
5-6 I pray to God—my life a prayer—
and wait for what he’ll say and do.
My life’s on the line before God, my Lord,
waiting and watching till morning,
waiting and watching till morning.
 
7-8 O Israel, wait and watch for God—
with God’s arrival comes love,
with God’s arrival comes generous redemption.
No doubt about it—he’ll redeem Israel,
buy back Israel from captivity to sin.
 
FROM THE HEART…
 
All I am and all I have I owe to God. He has brought me through thick and thin, hard times and good times, challenging and easy tasks on the journey to knowing Him more and more. I’ve messed up many times with saying or doing the wrong thing at the wrong time, but because of the work of Jesus Christ, His Son, on the cross for our sins…ALL sin past, present and future has been taken care of and paid in full. Forgiveness is God’s habit. Let’s develop God’s habit of forgiving, even when other’s don’t ask for it. THIS is the byproduct of God’s forgiveness to us. It is mandatory. Love God. Love Others. Forgive Others as God forgave us. Experience complete freedom having the holy habit of forgiveness. Be a revolutionary!
 
Psalm 130 must learnMatthew 6:14-15 (NIV)
14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. –Jesus
 
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for your holy habit of forgiveness to us. You are God and we are not but You are willing to forgive us completely. You are also willing to teach us how to develop your habit of forgiveness for others. Thank you for your patience, love, mercy and grace for us. Thank you for this lesson today.
In Jesus Name, Amen

 

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WE BLESS YOU!

Psalms – Prayers of Honesty and Praise
 
Psalm 129, The Message
A Pilgrim Song
 
Psalm 129
1-4 “They’ve kicked me around ever since I was young”
—this is how Israel tells it—
“They’ve kicked me around ever since I was young,
but they never could keep me down.
Their plowmen plowed long furrows
up and down my back;
Then God ripped the harnesses
of the evil plowmen to shreds.”
 
Psalm 129 bless you5-8 Oh, let all those who hate Zion
grovel in humiliation;
Let them be like grass in shallow ground
that withers before the harvest,
Before the farmhands can gather it in,
the harvesters get in the crop,
Before the neighbors have a chance to call out,
Congratulations on your wonderful crop!
We bless you in God’s name!”
 
What We Need to Know…(Commentary, Warren Wiersbe)
 
The destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians was described by the prophets as “plowing” (vv. 3-4; Isa. 51:23; Mic. 3:12; Jer. 26:17-18), so this psalm was probably written after the exiles returned to the land. There they were surrounded by enemy peoples who hated them, so the theme was appropriate.
 
The psalmist speaks for the nation and states that, no matter how severe the persecution, nothing can destroy the people of Israel. But God’s church has also suffered severe persecution throughout the centuries, and faithful individual Christians face personal hostility. “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12 nkjv). The psalm gives three instructions that we should follow when we find ourselves suffering for Jesus Christ.
 
ACCEPT IT (vv. 1-2)
Israel has suffered more than any nation in history, yet Israel has not been destroyed!
 
Egypt tried to drown the Jews (Ex. 1:15-22), but the Lord drowned Egypt’s crack troops (Ex. 14:19-31). The Assyrians tried to starve them into surrender, but God wiped out the Assyrian army (Isa. 37–38). Nebuchadnezzar, ruler of Babylon, tried to burn them up, but the Lord delivered them (Dan. 3). Belshazzar blasphemed the God of Israel and defiled the holy vessels of the temple, but that very night, the Medes and Persians killed him. The Persian soothsayers tried to throw Daniel to the lions, but God rescued him, and the beasts killed the soothsayers instead (Dan. 6).
 
Hitler killed over six million Jews in his gas chambers, but he was soundly defeated, and the nation of Israel was born a few years later. The church of Jesus Christ has experienced persecution, but it still stands and will stand until Jesus returns (Matt. 16:18). Every true believer can identify with Paul’s testimony in 2 Corinthians 4:7-12. When it comes to suffering for the sake of the Lord, we must first of all accept it.
 
Psalm 129 plowingBENEFIT FROM IT (vv. 3-4)
As you read these verses, you can almost feel the sharp cutting edges of the plow. Their enemies treated Israel like dirt and walked on them! (See Josh. 10:24; Isa. 51:23.) Some students see in the plowing image a picture of prisoners being whipped, leaving long, deep gashes on their backs. If that is a part of the picture, then our Lord endured the same suffering–and yet His stripes bring spiritual healing to those who trust Him (Isa. 50:6; 53:5)!
 
The nation of Israel has been plowed long, deep, and often, but what a harvest of blessing it has brought to the world! The day came when God cut the cords that tied the oxen to the plow, and then Israel was free (see 124:7). The exiles returned to their homes wiser and better people because they had felt the pain of the plow. Instead of blaming God for their suffering, they confessed, “The Lord is righteous.”
 
The plowing image is a good one for believers today, for it reminds us that there can be a glorious harvest, but it depends on the seeds that we plant. Of itself, suffering does not produce blessing. If we plant seeds of hatred and resentment, then suffering will produce bitterness. But if we plant faith, hope, love, and the precious promises of the Word, then the harvest will bless us and help others, and it will bring glory to God. (See 1 Peter 4:12-19.) God permits people to treat us like dirt, and we must accept it, but we have the privilege of transforming it by the grace of God into character that honors the Lord.
 
COMMIT TO THE LORD (vv. 5-8)
Psalm 129 grass on roofThe harvest image continues, but moves from the fields to the housetops. Roofs were flat and usually composed of a mixture of mud and mortar, wood, and thatching. It would be easy for wind-blown seeds to settle on the roofs, take root in the shallow soil, grow quickly, but not last. Jesus used this image in His parable about the sower (Matt. 13:5-6, 20-21). Where there has been no plowing, you will not get much of a harvest.
 
The psalmist prayed that those who hated Zion would perish quickly like the useless grass on the roof. But why would anybody want to hate the Jews? Is this hatred born of envy? The most logical answer is that Satan hates Israel and has always been at war with her (see Rev. 12). Satan is also at war with the church (John 15:18-25; 17:14; 1 John 3:13).
 
Jewish harvesters often blessed one another as they worked in the fields (Ruth 2:4), but no blessing would be given to Israel’s enemies, for they were rebelling against the God of Israel. First, these enemies would be turned back in disgrace because they could not eradicate Israel, then they would wither away, and finally they would be mowed down and used for fuel. But the people of Israel can always say to the world, “We bless you in the name of the Lord,” because Israel has brought to the world the knowledge of the true and living God, the Scriptures, and the Savior. “Salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22).
 
When people treat you like dirt because you belong to Jesus, remember the ABCs of this psalm: accept it, benefit from it, commit it to the Lord.
 
FROM THE HEART…
 
How hard is it to bless those who persecute us? How should believers respond to unbelievers’ taunts?
 
How can we benefit from suffering?
 
 
Psalm 129 heartDear Heavenly Father,
We love you with all our heart, mind and soul. We know many do not love you back as you love us. Lord, it’s hard to love and bless our enemies. We realize our true enemy is satan who seeks to destroy our relationship with You. We will be on guard for this evil. With your help we will stay true to You and what we know to be Truth. Our benefit in suffering is knowing you more and more while feeling your Presence with us and knowing the suffering will only last for a little while until you come for us all on that glorious day. In the meantime, I’m yours, Lord. I’ll go where You lead.
In Jesus Name, Amen
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